Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors

Overview

A Wildly Funny and Shockingly True Compendium of the Bad Boys (and Girls) of Western Literature

Rock stars, rappers, and actors haven't always had a monopoly on misbehaving. There was a time when authors fought with both words and fists, a time when poets were the ones living fast and dying young. This witty, insightful, and wildly entertaining narrative profiles the literary greats who wrote generation-defining classics such as The Great Gatsby and On the Road while living and ...

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Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors

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Overview

A Wildly Funny and Shockingly True Compendium of the Bad Boys (and Girls) of Western Literature

Rock stars, rappers, and actors haven't always had a monopoly on misbehaving. There was a time when authors fought with both words and fists, a time when poets were the ones living fast and dying young. This witty, insightful, and wildly entertaining narrative profiles the literary greats who wrote generation-defining classics such as The Great Gatsby and On the Road while living and loving like hedonistic rock icons, who were as likely to go on epic benders as they were to hit the bestseller lists. Literary Rogues turns back the clock to consider these historical (and, in some cases, living) legends, including Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Hunter S. Thompson, and Bret Easton Ellis. Brimming with fasci- nating research, Literary Rogues is part nostalgia, part literary analysis, and a wholly raucous celebration of brilliant writers and their occasionally troubled legacies.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this rollicking romp through a gallery of writers whose genius came with a price (alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and other troubles), Shaffer (Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love) offers a terrific blend of literary history, biography, and witty commentary. With a breezy style full of pithy asides, Shaffer profiles a wide range of writers including the Marquis de Sade, Samuel Coleridge, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, Dorothy Parker, Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Wurtzel, and James Frey, exposing both the exuberant and the dark sides of their notorious lives. Shaffer may playfully acknowledge an early romanticized admiration for his rock star writers and their decadent lifestyles, but he does, emphatically, note the grim aspects of their lives (early deaths, debilitating depression, crippling drug and alcohol dependency, dysfunctional relationships). The protagonists may have been self-destructive, but their exploits are always wildly entertaining, and their output is all the more miraculous for what they survived. As Shaffer observes, that these writers achieved anything in their addled states is remarkable. Agent: Brandi Bowles, Foundry Literary & Media. (Feb.)
New York Times Book Review
“‘Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love’ extends the schadenfreude to the boudoir.”
Martha Stewart Whole Living
“If you’re in dutch with your valentine, give him Andrew Shaffer’s book, which recounts the tortured love lives of 37 thinkers. Compared to them, you’ll look as saintly as St. Thomas himself—who, Shaffer tells us, once chased a prostitute out of his room with a hot poker.”
NY1
“This scandalous retelling is an entertaining yet bittersweet memorial to romantic self-destruction.”
Clancy Martin
“Indispensable advice for all lovers—and especially for those who think they should learn about the art of love from philosophers. A wonderful summary of the musings on love by some of history’s greatest and most idiosyncratic minds.”
NPR.org
“Remarkable. . . . Literary Rogues is far from a how-to, but it is strangely reassuring.”
New York Journal of Books
“Brilliantly chronicles both the excesses and triumphs of some of the most talented and notorious of them all. . . . A relevant examination of the creative personality.”
Kirkus Reviews
A quick-read biographical guide to literature's most notorious wastrels, scoundrels and rebels, from the Marquis de Sade to James Frey. Shaffer (Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love, 2011) poses the initial question that gives this historical guide to authorial self-destruction its impetus: Why are popular writers today so dull and uncontroversial compared to the literary lions of the past? Though light on hard analysis, this compendium of the creative ways in which history's most lauded wordsmiths poisoned themselves is enjoyable enough. Shaffer achieves user-friendliness by reducing each of these literary masters to a sum of their worst qualities: Most notable are de Sade's twisted promiscuity, Lord Byron's freewheeling pansexuality and the absinthe-fueled jailbird misadventures of decadent poet Paul Verlaine. Shaffer provides a wide historical reach, as the opium-addled 18th-century romantics and diversely corrupted 19th-century English decadents give way to the 20th century's melancholic suicidal alcoholics: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway. Shaffer also treats the Beats, New Journalists and Merry Pranksters of the 1950s and 1960s, who mixed in LSD, pot and heroin with the good old-fashioned alcoholism of their forebears. Schaffer's book loses its kick, however, when spotlighting the last three decades of relatively lame literary roguery: After being regaled with, for example, Lord Byron's life of "bling, booze, and groupie sex" and his dramatic death on a Greek battlefield, readers may not be impressed by Jay McInerney's penny-ante coke habits. Further, there's no speculation as to why, in an uncensored 21st-century culture where seemingly anything goes, most prominent writers now lead drearily sober lives. Entertaining and well-researched but facile pop history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062077288
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/5/2013
  • Pages: 297
  • Sales rank: 1,364,007
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Shaffer is the author of Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love and, under the pen name Fanny Merkin, Fifty Shames of Earl Grey. His writing has appeared in such diverse publications as Mental Floss and Maxim. An Iowa native, Shaffer lives in Lexington, Kentucky, a magical land of horses and bourbon.

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